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I have a friend who is a beautiful artist. Her brother is an extraordinary artist. Her father is an artist. Her childhood was full of art; as a family they painted and sketched, sculpted and carved.
I remember being about fifteen and sitting around a table at their house drawing. I remember longingly looking over at their drawings and back again at mine and commenting on how I wished I could draw like them.
Her dad said to me,
we are all artists, we all have our own artistic voice, we just have to listen to it and work at it.
He then showed me a picture in an art book of a tree which looked similar to the one I was drawing.
I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time but I think I do now. Creativity is within us all; individual, creative expression; our own unique view of seeing and representing the world, it’s there, we just have to nurture and most importantly, protect it.
When you draw a tree, what do you do? I am sure like me, many of you draw two lines (maybe wider at the bottom) with a cloud like bubble on top. But is this what a tree looks like?
When you draw a house, what do you do? A square with a triangle on top, a rectangular door in the middle and two square windows? Me too. Why do we do this? How can we live in completely different cities and countries yet draw the same?
I think as children, through our experience with art, we are taught symbols for different objects; houses, trees, flowers, people, the sun… Our individual creative expressions have been replaced by a bank of symbols, none with any real likeness to the original object or any real imaginative or creative response.
Protecting and nurturing our children’s individual creativity is more than having a child (and eventually an adult) who can draw or paint. Protecting their creativity is about having a child who has ideas, who sees possibilities, who tries different ways of solving problems, who tinkers, who thinks and who dreams.
“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status”
So how can we protect our children’s immense creative potential?
We need to offer our children art experiences which encourage discovery and exploration; experiences which:
- honour the child’s process
- empower the child to feel confident in their individual expression
- respect the child by offering them quality art materials
- do not require the child to create according to a predetermined design
- Take a look at your weekly rhythm and make time for art; as often as possible
- Encourage daily art by having sketch books and drawing materials in your child’s play area
- Take an inventory of your art materials
Over the coming weeks we will be looking at different art materials and experiences. This will give you a chance to assess your art materials and add some if needed. And if you’re looking for a truly wonderful art book have a look at Ann Pelo’s The Language of Art: Reggio-Inspired Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings. You will be so inspired.